Ghosts and pirates reign supreme in the Magic Kingdom. With all of the expansions, updates, and new attractions introduced over the past decade, the two most sacrosanct pieces of attraction property remain the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. They are timeless, attracting and delighting guests of all ages and serving as icons for Disney fans. So when a change is made to either attraction, it causes a flurry of speculation, anticipation, and excitement that usually ends in either delight or resentment (usually depending on the person).
As a Disney fan, I’m addicted to both of those attractions. They’re the only rides I want to do “every time,” and somehow they never get old for me. So, when I heard that the Haunted Mansion had received a new interactive queue area and updated, digital hitchhiking ghosts, I couldn’t wait to experience the enhancements for myself – and decide if I fell into the delighted or resentful category.
The amazing online Disney community documented both of these improvements as they evolved, and there is wonderful commentary and video available on the ‘net, most notably at Inside the Magic (where Ricky provides one of my favorite sources for WDW news, often scooping most other outlets, including the official ones). But, getting the opportunity to explore the new queue yesterday (all by myself) and getting to see the new ghost effects, I wanted to share a few things that I had not yet read with other folks as eager to know about the attraction as I.
The new crypt is accessed by going to the left of a wrought-iron divider in the middle of the walkway. I almost missed it because the area is not extremely visible – when crowds are light, it is easy to just go straight ahead to the main manor doors and not even see the new area to your left. If crowds are not directed that way and a CM is standing in the opening, ask if you can walk through. That’s how I got in, and I had the whole place to myself. Parts of the queue were not functioning (no squirting water), but it was quite a thrill to wander at my own pace.
The queue stands up to Disney standards of theming. It’s beautifully done, and the interactivity has great potential. The area is much brighter than I had pictured. There are no surprises, and any shadows you see are painted onto the elements; there’s nothing scary here at all.
Prudence Pock, the poetess, is a wonderful element. I had read that the shrine provided “interactive poetry” but was unsure how that worked. It works like this. There is an open book in the shrine; the pages are “digital paper” – screens. On the page, a couplet will be “written” by ghostly Prudence, missing its last rhyme. Her disembodied voice will then ask for help in finding the rhyme. The crowd is to shout out the correct word, and voice recognition software picks it up and completes the poem. Nifty…when it works. The voiceover has several lines about being deaf (and dead) for good reason. A CM and I standing, alone, in front of the shrine screaming our heads off with rhyming words were having problems getting results. I wonder how well it works with a crowd?
And then there are the hitchhiking ghosts themselves. I’m not easily impressed when it comes to technology in an attraction. I tend to be an “old fashioned” person, because I think that the sense of physical presence and simple-is-effective often beats out technology that doesn’t quite connect with the viewer. The new ghosts? wow.
The biggest problem with the new effects is that they go by too quickly! Three mirrors were plenty to see the ghost in your car with you, looking about. Three mirrors to take in the new, amazing gags the ghosts are pulling made me look for the parking brake. I can’t wait to ride again because I couldn’t see it all that quickly!
The other truly amazing thing about the new ghosts that I have not seen mentioned online is the way they move. I’ve heard digital animators talk about how hard it is to render human movement because of its familiarity. We know how it’s “supposed” to look, and we notice any imperfections. The new, digital ghosts represent some impressive digital animation. They move like people. They are quick, natural, and totally believable. Combine that with the targeted interactivity with guest heads and body positions, and they truly are amazing. I was impressed with the active, natural movement of the sequence. There was no jarring for me; I was not pulled out of the experience by thoughts of the digital animation or the effect. The brief ride past the mirrors was an immersive continuation of the ride; I spent my time being delighted and wanting to slow down (a sad thing on an omnimover) rather than thinking about the digital effect.
You can access the pictures I took in the crypt yesterday at Flickr, and and watch the the inside the magic ridethrough video if you haven’t seen it, but trust me, it doesn’t do the experience justice. Come ride it yourself…
So I loved the “improvements” to one of my old favorites. Have you seen them yet? Did you like ‘em? If you haven’t, what are you worried about?